Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Hero's Journey

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Hero's Journey

Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.

About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)

Ordinary World

Um, is anything really ever "ordinary" in the world of "The Boy Who Lived," a.k.a. "The Chosen One," a.k.a. Harry? Well, no. But it's another school year, and Harry and his friends are back at Hogwarts, taking classes and worrying about their love lives, so we suppose that's as ordinary as things might get for this crew.

Call To Adventure

We should probably mention that Harry recently learned that he's the only one who can defeat Voldemort. Yeah. So, nothing ordinary about that. With the question of "who" will be defeating the Dark Lord settled, Dumbledore and Harry have started working together on the "how." Dumbledore tells Harry that cozying up to Professor Slughorn, the new Potions teacher, would probably be very helpful on that front.

Refusal Of The Call

Harry does get a little distracted from the task at hand, though, when he starts using a pre-owned Potions textbook with all kinds of super handy notes in the margins that turn him from a dreadful Potions student into a total whiz. The owner of the textbook apparently called himself the "Half-Blood Prince."

Hermione gets irritated with Harry for being so into the book without knowing anything about its previous owner, but Harry is enjoying being the best student in the Potions class (even better than Hermione!) for once.

Meeting The Mentor

He continues meeting with Dumbledore and learning more about exactly why Slughorn is so important in figuring out how to defeat Voldemort. It seems that Slughorn has a memory of an encounter with Voldemort that Harry needs to get his magical hands on.

Slughorn had given Dumbledore a version of this memory (to view in his Pensieve, which is basically a TV for memories), but it had been somehow altered or damaged. Dumbledore needs the real one.

Crossing The Threshold

Harry tries to get close to Slughorn and ask about the memory, but Slughorn figures out Harry's/Dumbledore's game pretty quickly and shuts it down. He does not want to reopen that moment in his past.

However, with a little help from a potion that's basically "liquid luck" (which he won from Slughorn, actually), Harry gets the true memory from the Potions prof and brings it back to Dumbledore. Success! At least with step one.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Slughorn's real memory reveals something horrifying: Voldemort has been dividing his soul and attaching it to objects that he then hides, all to make killing him harder. Yikes. Dumbledore had suspected Dumbledore was making Horcruxes (that's what the objects with the soul bits are called), but he didn't know the extent of Voldemort's efforts.

Harry and Dumbledore have their work cut out for them now, since killing Voldemort means finding and destroying all of those Horcruxes first.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

No joke: there is a literal cave at this point in the plot. It's in the middle of the sea, and Harry and Dumbledore travel there because Dumbledore suspects it's where Voldemort has hidden one of his Horcruxes.


Naturally, Voldemort hasn't just left parts of his soul lying around unprotected. What kind of a movie plot would that make? The Horcrux is in the cave, but it's on a little island surrounded by water. Dumbledore and Harry manage to get to the island, but then they find that the Horcrux (a locket) is at the bottom of a bowl filled with potion that you have to drink in order to gain access. Ugh.

Dumbledore volunteers for the task, ordering Harry to make him keep drinking, no matter what he says when he's under the spell of the potion.

And we're not going to lie: it's rough. Dumbledore begs Harry to stop making him drink the potion. Definitely hard to watch.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

Both wizards manage to keep going through that trial, though, and soon they can grab the locket. Phew.

The Road Back

They have some trouble getting out of the cave (Harry almost drowns in the process), but they manage to escape and return to Hogwarts. Whew—maybe we'll get a little time to relax and regroup? A happy ending (until the next movie, that is)?


Eh, sorry, a happy ending isn't really in the cards here. When Harry and Dumbledore get back to Hogwarts, Draco, some Death Eaters, and then Snape show up. While Harry hides (under Dumbledore's orders), Snape kills Dumbledore.

The only resurrection we can spot comes in the form of Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, flying around the castle at the very end. (Phoenixes are a symbol of resurrection, you know.) Other than that, we have to say…things are looking pretty bleak.

Return With The Elixir

To make matters worse, Harry realizes that the Horcrux he and Dumbledore just retrieved was a fake. (Grrrrr.) He resolves to continue the mission even though Dumbledore is gone, and apparently Ron and Hermione are planning to join him. So, we guess that whole elixir-returning thing's gonna have to wait.

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